business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday's Eye-Opener, courtesy of Engadget, that Amazon "is experiencing high levels of attrition (regretted and unregretted) across all levels, totaling an estimated $8 billion annually," one MNB reader wrote:

Some years ago when I was working with Walmart there was a big study shown at one of the Saturday morning meetings showing turnover at a such a rate that it was just a matter of time before 100% of Americans will either be a current or former Walmart employee. While I don’t recall the timeframe it was certainly within a few decades. 

While Amazon has fewer bricks and mortar locations it does seems that as they are pushing for greater physical presence that they too run the risk of running out of eligible employees. 

I think Amazon already has conceded that.  Hence this morning's faceTime, suggesting that the attrition numbers argue for a complete rethinking of management-labor relations and workplace infrastructure.

I argued in my FaceTime video yesterday that there ought to be a sacrosanct rule - data belongs to the shopper, and cannot be used, sold or otherwise provided to any entity (commercial or governmental) without the consumer's permission.

One MNB reader responded:

Data belongs to the consumer until he/she willingly, even eagerly, trades them for the right to use a website for free.  Do you really think the sites should have to give their stores away?

Specious argument, I think.  I'm not suggesting anyone give their stores away.  I am suggesting that customer data compiled by a retailer ought to only be used by that retailer … and not used, sold or otherwise provided to any entity (commercial or governmental) without the consumer's permission.

I think that's a fairly simple premise.  I do business with you, and you can use my data to provide me with a better experience.  But you can't give it or sell it to anyone else. Not without my permission.

We had a piece yesterday about how Ahold-Delhaize-owned, Maryland-based Giant Food said that "local shoppers can now purchase a selection of products in reusable packaging thanks to a new partnership between Giant Food and Loop, the circular reuse platform developed by TerraCycle."

MNB reader Gary Goff wrote:

This is a step in the right direction, but it's expensive and annoying for retailers and consumers when there are still many steps that could be utilized that put the onus on CPGs at the source of the issue, for example, primary packaging that:

• Can be refilled through bulk packaging options available at retail

• Emphasizes efficiency vs. a billboard effect on shelf

• Is resealable thus eliminating the need for consumers to re-package products at home utilizing additional canisters or sandwich bags, etc. (sorry Glad)

• Has an afterlife to serve as a reusable, multi-purpose storage container (sorry Tupperware), etc. 

Yesterday we took note of a Bloomberg piece about "a class of startups that soared during the pandemic, trying to solve a logistics and math puzzle that’s dogged Silicon Valley for decades: Can an e-commerce company whisk products to your house in under an hour? And more important: Can it actually make money doing so?"

Spoiler alert, in case you didn't read the story:  The answer likely is no.

(You can read the whole thing here.)

A number of reactions to the whole "instant delivery" trend …. as one MNB reader wrote:

Is “instant delivery” something that all this energy deserves. I assume 99.9% of “stuff” people order on-line is not really needed in an hour. On a macro level, it would be great if all these resources to “solve” this unimportant problem were applied to solve some critical societal issues.

Well, sure.  You can try to solve the instant delivery riddle, or you can try to save democracy.  But the latter may make the former look like a piece of cake.

Also … there are a lot of things that people don't really need, but just want, that they treat as a need.  We all have them - it is a matter of priorities and perspective.  It is kind of important as marketers not to assume that your priorities match up with everybody else's.

From another reader:

Call me a Neanderthal (I still have a checkbook and carry cash in my wallet), but I have never understood this death-spiral race to deliver things instantaneously.  If I run out of sugar or am in urgent need of a beer and find my fridge depleted, I get in my car and drive to the local grocery or convenience store.  I don’t need a drone to swoop in with a six pack of Fat Tire.

As you point out, I too don’t see how a twenty-minute delivery window will ever be practical or profitable. Retailers should devote their energies to initiatives that are more value-added to their customers. Like customer service?

On a somewhat related topic, I have stopped going into my local Starbucks to get my morning cup of coffee.  I have grown tired of being first in line only to watch a crew of baristas ignore me in favor of filling orders that were sent in on their app. The same is true at the local sandwich shop, the healthy salad place, etc.  And don’t get me started on trying to get a customer service representative to answer a phone or provide capable advice.

My wife recently had a problem with a product she brought home from one of the home improvement big boxes.  She called the store and became frustrated with the lack of any effort to address her concern. She finally asked “I thought the customer was always right”.  The employee responded “no they’re not” and hung up the phone.

Your email points to so many problems…

A near-instantaneous delivery window may not be practical or profitable … but I would also suggest (and I am kind of arguing with myself here) that nobody though two-day delivery was practical not so long ago.  But I do agree that we are seeing a kind of race taking place in which nobody is going to win.

Your Starbucks example is part of why the company is in trouble - management was (and may remain) out of touch with what was taking place in stores.  (Cautionary note to every retail executive!)

I assume you're going to stop doing business with that big box store, and will communicate that experience to the chain's CEO.  If you don't, then you probably can't ever expect improvement.

And finally … I have to admit that a drone swooping in with a six pack of Fat Tire sounds really, really good.  Where do I sign up for that service?

And finally, on another subject, from MNB readerBob McGehee:

This is another aspect of the newly named ‘Quiet Quitting’.  FYI -- While the phrase may be new but the attitude has been around for a long time.  I first heard it as "Some people work just hard enough so they don't get fired and their employers pay them just enough so they don't quit."

Here's another reason:

One year all the planets aligned and I received a "5 / Consistently exceeds expectations", the top performance rating.  This was the result of many things, i.e., exceeding profit/sales goals, new program enrollment plus being involved in a special project requiring I be on the road for several months. I eagerly awaited my 7-9% raise as defined by the overly complex compensation system but was very disappointed when I got 3.5%.  When I asked my boss about the difference, the somewhat expected reply was "Well, you know we have a max budget for all pay increases but I got special permission to get you the extra."  FYI -- Most employees got a "3 / Meets expectations" resulting in a 3% raise.

For the next 10+ years, my performance was driven only by my personal motivation. 

I feel your pain - in so many ways that describes my pre-MNB work experience.  (Which is at least one of the reasons I hung out my own shingle.)

This happens in a lot of companies and organizations, and the deed often is performed by some executive who never would settle for such treatment.  And then that executive hangs out with other executives and bemoans the work ethic demonstrated by employees.

It is utter B.S. (and I feel so strongly about this that I debated long and hard with myself about whether or not to use the initials).